Hidden Soy In Foods

My son recently discovered an allergy to soy. Aside from buying soy-free labelled foods, I noticed soy is being added into a huge amount of food, listed among the ingredients section. Even the humble loaf of bread has soy flour added. I wouldn’t have thought this was a necessary ingredient. Can anyone explain why?

it is not a hidden ingredient when it is declared.

This from a bakery that one can take or leave compared to peer reviewed literature, but it seems to cover the lot of reasons in layman’s terms


Oh dear. What does a person with allergies to both soy protein and gluten do?

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In addition to Phil’s remarks, on a more personal note, if you make your own bread, some soy flour can make a more tasty loaf and improves the texture. I use several different flours aside from white wheat and wholemeal wheat for variety. Not that soy flour on its own makes good bread.

Aside from flour the use of soy and soy products in processed food has grown much in recent years. It naturally contains substantial amounts of protein and has other properties that add to the flavour and texture of manufactured food. And it is also cheap.

For a while soy and its products became the darling of the wellness and alternate foods industry as it can be a substitute for perceived ‘problem’ foods. Until it became apparent that in some cases it has its own problems.

This leads to another issue, that of defensive labelling. You can get made foods with labels that say “may contain XYZ” where XYZ is a substance (eg peanuts) that can cause problems. That doesn’t mean they deliberately add XYZ or even that there is any there at all. It may be that it is made in a factory where XYZ has been used at some point and the maker is covering their arse just in case of adulteration.

So as with many threads here over the years about food ingredients that may be harmful in some cases, unless you make it yourself you have to read the ingredient list on any made food carefully and do not make assumptions about what is in it.

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In the case of an emulsifier being needed in many food products often the one used is soy-lecithin. Can be seen in the ingredients list of foods from bread to chocolate.
As you say, it’s very hard to avoid, anyone allergic to it has my sympathy.

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Thanks for your comments. Until recently I had no reason to really look at the ingredient listings. It just astounded me that it’s being added to so many things when, in my opinion, there’s really no real need to. I’m sure one of the main reasons would be because it’s a cheaper ingredient. I even noticed it being used in some ice creams! It certainly makes the weekly shopping trip a whole lot longer and more frustrating.

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Soybean derived ingredients are very common in processed foods. If one had a soy allergy, it is important to find out what forms of soy derived ingredients one is allergic to…otherwise one’s diet might become highly restrictive.

To give an idea of living with soy allergy and foods which may contain soybean derived ingredients, the FARE website has useful background information:

This website contains some information on why soy is used in processed foods:

Soy isn’t limited to foods, it can be found in a range of other consumer products such as soaps, cosmetics, plastics, clothing, inks, glues, lubricants, coatings and insulation. These products don’t need to disclose soy as an ingredient and could pose risks depending on how they are used and the allergy triggers. It is hidden in many consumer products, but not food where is mandatory ingredient labelling for most foods.

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Thank you for this information. It’s literally blowing my mind as to the amount and the places soy is being used. I wonder why, after all these years, he’s just becoming allergic now. Maybe his body just reached a tipping point. Thanks again.


Assuming there is a professional medical assessment of the allergy, the specialist or GP should have an answer for why.

My mother in law developed an allergy to sugar. An alternative medical practitioner (yes!) diagnosed it as Calcium deficiency. A course of injections and it disappeared. I relate this only to suggest a deficiency of something in the body can cause unexpected reactions. (Moderator, please remove if out of order).

Back in the days when I used to make bread, I added gluten to increase the protein content as well as improve texture.
Having recently acquired soy & sunflower allergy, I have had to learn a bit about the issues. Even living in Indonesia, it is hard to avoid in Western products.

Lecithin is sourced from both soy and sunflower, though soy is more common. Finding peanut butter, biscuits, ice cream and chocolate that are lecithin-free requires a lot of reading the fine print. Most Indonesian companies do rate it as an allergen, but some do not so I have to double check. So far, traditional foods are free of lecithin - but I miss my soy and tempe, they were a major part of my diet.

Community Co Canola Oil - Mr Z was told spraying this was better than ether to get his old dozer started (that’s another topic - don’t discuss that here). I bought him both the 750ml bottle of Canola Oil and the 400g can of Canola Oil Spray.

The oil bottle is 100% canola oil. The can is 77% canola oil and lecithin (from soy). Propellants - butane & propane. Not sure why the lecithin, perhaps to aid the spray droplet formation?

The oil has 0 sugars per 100ml. The can has less than 1g per 100ml. Mr Z is reluctant to put any sugar into the fuel system of an engine. So one of the other ingredients has some sugars.

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It’s generally used as an emulsifier, so no doubt as you suspect- keeping the canola oil emulsified in the hydrocarbon propellant, which would be liquid under the pressure in the can.

Alternatively, buy a kitchen spray bottle and put the pure canola oil in it, for a 100% oil spray. As long as the oil is warm I think it should come out of the nozzle as a reasonably fine mist.

Maybe it is actually the propellant that does the job not the canola. Starter spray contains things like very volatile petroleum components and/or ether.

That will tell us if it is the oil or the propellant.

That may be none at all. Labelling of foodstuffs can be mysterious to the point of misleading.

I find the idea of spraying butane or propane around the kitchen where there may be open flames quite alarming but that is another topic.